October 24, 2008 / 3:25 PM / 10 years ago

Branson quits Atlantic sail record attempt

LONDON (Reuters) - British entrepreneur Richard Branson said Friday he had abandoned an attempt to make the fastest crossing of the Atlantic in a mono-hull sailing yacht after damage from a severe storm.

Richard Branson's boat "Virgin Money," sails in the ocean after departing New York, in an attempt to break the transatlantic mono-hull sailing record, October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Chip East

The Virgin Group chairman was trying to beat the record of six days, 17 hours and 52 minutes on the course from the Ambrose Lighthouse, just south of New York City, to Lizard Point in Britain.

“We got taken by one massive monster wave that took us from behind and took one of our life rafts,” Branson, 58, told a conference call relayed from the yacht, “Virgin Money.”

The boat had been battling waves of up to 40 feet in gale force winds on its second day at sea.

The storm blew out the spinnaker and ripped the mainsail, but all the crew had been on harnesses and were safe.

The mainsail was too badly damaged to be repaired at sea and the 99-foot boat was now making its way to Bermuda.

Branson said the boat would be ready to sail again in the next few weeks, with another record attempt possible later this year or in the spring.

“The boat did great, but the conditions were a bit too bad this time,” he said.

Branson was sailing with his two adult children Holly and Sam. Also among the crew were British Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslee, New Zealand skipper Mike Sanderson and the boat’s American owner Alex Jackson.

Sanderson helmed the yacht “Mari Chi IV” which set the current record for the 2,925-ile course in October 2003.

Reporting by Tim Castle, editing by Paul Casciato

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